Many coaches worry when their offense sputters, starters get in early foul trouble and they have to rely on their bench. Not Katie Meier.
The University of Miami women’s basketball coach happily turned the court over to her subs in the early going Wednesday night, and they were a big reason the Hurricanes beat Virginia 67-58.
By night’s end, the Canes’ bench had outscored the Cavaliers’ 24-4 and delivered seven assists and 16 rebounds — nine of them from freshman Erykah Davenport. Miami improved to 15-4, 5-1 in the ACC, and 13-1 at home. Virginia, coached by one of Meier’s friends and fellow Duke alum, Joanne Boyle, dropped to 13-6, 3-3 ACC.
“This was just going to be one of those grind-it-out games, and I think without any question, the difference was our bench,” Meier said. “I felt we had a deeper bench. Our bench is used to hitting big shots, being in big moments.”
Two of the game’s smallest women — 5-6 Jessica Thomas and 5-8 Michelle Woods — made the biggest impact. Thomas had a career-high 18 points on 60 percent shooting. Woods had 12 and five assists.
Thomas had gone out early with two fouls but “begged to go back in with those big ol’ saucer eyes, so I let her and I screamed, ‘Don’t you dare foul!’” Meier said. Thomas obliged and never got another foul. The Canes didn’t score in the first six minutes and missed 13 of their first 15 shots. Virginia took advantage and opened up a 10-0 lead.
Meier, visibly frustrated, took out starters Necole Sterling, Jass Williams and Suriya McGuire and brought in Davenport, Woods and Khaila Prather.
The trio helped get Miami back on track, the starters returned, and Thomas got the Canes on the scoreboard at 14:40. They closed the gap to 17-16 on a layup by Davenport, easily identifiable by her magenta-dyed ponytail (McGuire’s is blue, Williams is purple). The players decided during the New Orleans road trip to have multicolored coifs, and Meier doesn’t mind.
“Our team doesn’t lack for personality,” Meier said. “I encourage it. I have no problem with it. They are all very respectful, with tremendous character, so if they have pink and blue hair, I don’t care.”
Asked if she may dye her hair next, Meier smiled and said: “If you look at my roots they are five different colors.”
Virginia led 27-25 at halftime, partly because the Hurricanes were 1-of-12 from beyond the arc. But they made up for their poor outside shooting in the paint, where they outscored the Cavs 36-14.
Miami took its first lead, 36-35, five minutes into the second half on a three-point play by Thomas and never trailed again.
Thursday: UM men
vs. N.C. State
When/where: 8 p.m.; BankUnited Center.
TV/radio: Ch. 33; WQAM 560 AM, WVUM 90.5 FM.
Records: UM 12-5, 2-2 ACC; N.C. State 13-6, 4-2.
Noteworthy: The Canes are coming off back-to-back road games against top 15 opponents — a double-digit win at then-No.4 Duke and a loss at No.12 Notre Dame. Coach Jim Larrañaga, unhappy with a few players’ lack of energy at practice Tuesday, kicked the entire team out of the gym and sent them home. … Spaniard Ivan Cruz Uceda (6-10), who joined the UM roster for the Notre Dame game after serving a 16-game suspension, is expected to get more minutes against the tall, hefty Wolfpack.